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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
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Biden toughens US approach to warring factions in Sudan

The president signed an executive order Thursday to underscore the growing policy concerns over the weekslong conflict.

WASHINGTON (CN) — U.S. sanctions will be the next step for warring factions in Sudan after a signal from leaders of the opposing forces that there is no end in sight to the conflict.

President Joe Biden took the step Thursday via executive order to open avenues for the State and Treasury departments to impose sanctions on anyone deemed complicit in the current fighting, undermining a civilian government, attacking civilians or committing human rights abuses.

The order is the latest action to showcase the administration’s growing foreign policy concern over the conflict in the northeast African country. 

John Kirby, coordinator of strategic communications for the National Security Council, said the order should not be considered a “warning” to force the leaders of the Sudanese Army and the Rapid Support Forces to negotiate a peace.

“The people of Sudan deserve better and if these two military factions, the leaders of them, really desire for peace and security, if they have the Sudanese people at their heart, then they should stop fighting,” Kirby said in a press briefing. “They should put the arms down, abide by the ceasefire they’ve agreed to and get back to the table so we can see a transition to civilian authority.”

The executive order says the fighting “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” In a statement, Biden called the violence “a tragedy” and “betrayal of the Sudanese people’s clear demand for civilian government and a transition to democracy.” He said the conflict is “unconscionable” and “must end.”

“The United States stands with the people of Sudan — and we are acting to support their commitment to a future of peace and opportunity,” Biden said in a press release. “The Sudanese people suffered thirty years under an authoritarian regime — but they never gave up on their commitment to democracy or their hope for a better future.”

State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said the executive order provides additional authority for already articulated foreign policy goals. 

“We will use the new authority as appropriate to promote accountability for those engaged in such maligned and violent conduct,” he said.

The power struggle between the Sudanese Army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group headed by Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan, broke into violence on April 15.

In a popular 2019 uprising, the generals helped depose the 30-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir and shared power with civilian leaders for two years. In 2021, the generals ousted civilian leaders.

Sudan was on the verge of shifting to a democracy but the generals started fighting over the proposed integration of the Rapid Support Forces into the army under a civilian government.

The World Health Organization estimated that the latest fighting has caused the death of more than 500 civilians, including two U.S. citizens.

Western governments, including the United States, largely evacuated their personnel from the country almost two weeks ago. The State Department has facilitated the departure of more than 2,000 people from the country since fighting broke out.

The Washington Post reported that the generals are no closer to a resolution and were digging in their positions ahead of a weeklong ceasefire announced by South Sudan set to start Thursday. The latest posturing diminishes the prospect of peace anytime soon.

Several previous and shorter ceasefires have failed to bring an end to the conflict.

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Categories / Government, International

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